As life progresses, we begin to notice several changes.
Stupid simple things like squatting down to pull weeds in the garden – something we haven’t given much thought to – suddenly have to be carefully considered before getting up again.
Most of us, of course, pay some attention to these kinds of mundane things. But we may not think much about what kind of cars are best suited for us as we get older.
Nevertheless, just because we get older doesn’t mean we lose our tastes and preferences.
On that note, we don’t like to lump all people together, so the stereotypical ‘old person drives small hatchback’ scenario is not what this article is about.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with driving a small hatchback, so it’s still an excellent place to start, but there’s plenty of variety for different tastes, too.
Many of us opt for small hatchbacks as we get older because driving larger vehicles gets a bit cumbersome. In addition, smaller cars are easier to clean, easier to drive through city centers and villages and of course easier to park. And once you’re in a parking lot, you’ll have more room to get in and out.
The Ford Fiesta is great in this regard. It looks good without being outrageous; it’s also cheap to buy, use, and maintain. The Fiesta is also available in different variants. These include sportier models and the ‘Active’ version, which raises the ride height and gives a more robust, off-roader look.
The latest test by the European crash-testing body Euro NCAP also awarded it a five-star safety rating. It’s well equipped and while the Ford isn’t packed to the brim with tech, it does have Lane Keeping Assist to make sure you don’t accidentally end up in the wrong lane.
A Honda Jazz could also be a good alternative, especially as it is taller, so getting in and out is more manageable. Today it is only available as a hybrid, but it comes with an automatic gearbox, which makes it all easier.
Volkswagen is also another manufacturer worth considering. The cute ‘Up’ is a small hatchback that has a lot to offer, including the Tardis-esque quality of appearing bigger inside. A Polo is slightly larger, has even more interior space and is comfortable and cheap to drive.
Almost every manufacturer has an SUV on offer these days.
You may also see the word “cross” (short for “crossover”) a lot. This is usually a small hatchback that’s been given rugged off-road styling and a raised ride height to look more like a small SUV (the Ford Fiesta Active we mentioned earlier is a prime example).
Cross versions are generally suitable for those looking for something bigger and a slightly elevated riding position.
Speaking of Fords, the Puma is a top pick here. It offers all of the above while still being relatively small, with an attractive and trendy look. Based on the Fiesta, it’s good to drive and cheap to drive, despite a decent amount of power.
Likewise, the Toyota Yaris Cross and the Citroën C5 Aircross can also go well together. The Toyota has supportive seats and plenty of safety gadgets, including a smart pre-collision system. Meanwhile, the Citroën has highly absorbent memory foam seats and extremely comfortable suspension.
The Volvo XC40 is also one of the safest cars on the market today, while the XC60 is equally brilliant if you want something bigger. Then there’s the Volvo XC90 when you need something even bigger.
If you want to enter the world of all-electric cars (and why not, they’re not as intimidating as you might think), consider the spacious and well-equipped Kia Soul EV. The long-range and practical Kia e-Niro is also a good choice, while the sharp-handling Skoda Enyaq iV could also be a good choice. The bigger-than-it-appearance Hyundai Ioniq 5 is also excellent in every way – including comfort and safety.
If you’re thinking, “Hang on, I want a real SUV,” then we’ve got you covered.
A Peugeot 5008 may not be high on your priority list. Yet it is very comfortable and well equipped. At the same time, Skoda and Kia reappear (yes, they’re brilliant these days) with the practical Kodiaq and the comfortable, safety-tech-laden Sorento, respectively.
If you are at the top of the market, the luxurious BMW X5 or the air suspension of the Land Rover Discovery are both very comfortable. The Audi Q7 is great for luxury but is geared more towards handling, although that’s not to say it isn’t uncomfortable in any way.
Sedan cars generally do not have the same level of practicality as hatchbacks. But for those who need to ride something bigger, they can be a perfect choice.
In that regard, we must not forget the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Admittedly, the E-Class has always been thought of as a car for retirement (unlike its more personality-driven rival BMW 5 Series), and you may not feel like driving around in something that effectively tells the world your age.
But the reality is that the E-Class has received a radical makeover in recent years. It looks sleeker, but it hasn’t lost any of the good qualities that made it perfect for older drivers, most notably being luxurious, spacious and practical. However, the air suspension we recommend to maximize comfort is an optional extra.
Likewise, the 5 Series is a best-of-all-worlds contender that combines comfort with space, practicality, technology and sharp handling. For similar reasons, the Audi A6 and Jaguar XF are also worth mentioning.
If premium brands are out of your price range, the Volkswagen Passat may be right for you. It has a stylish cabin and is very comfortable to drive, while still being a practical and well-equipped choice.
The Volvo S90 has also been refined in terms of driving comfort. While if you want something cheaper that rides well but is also pretty smooth in terms of suspension, the Mazda6 is definitely worth checking out.
The Skoda Superb is a car that also lives up to its name. Skoda now makes some of the best cars on the market, outside of the premium brands, and you may be getting more for your money than a Volkswagen.
If you’re looking for something with the platform of a saloon but the practicality of a hatchback, why not consider an estate?
The good news about the Skoda Superb, which we advocated above, is that the Estate version is excellent, with plenty of room, good build quality and a large boot, complete with a plush, comfortable ride. There is also a self-charging hybrid.
Likewise, BMW has long been a proponent of the station wagon. The 5 Series version is arguably the best of them all, with rear air suspension as standard and a good range of engines to match consumption and power, including a plug-in hybrid version.
Mercedes-Benz also makes an appearance with the E-Class Estate, which offers all the advantages of the sedan with more functionality. At the same time, it might be worth adding the Audi A6 Avant to the shortlist, although we recommend the optional air suspension to improve driving comfort.
If you need something cheaper, the Ford Focus Estate is a great value for money car. It’s not the most comfortable though, so we recommend the adaptive dampers, which are an optional extra. At the same time, the Peugeot 508 SW has a pleasantly immersive handling that combines performance and fuel consumption.
If you’re looking for a sports car, the reality is that most of the advice we’ve given so far – practicality, space, economy and driving comfort – goes out the window.
Sports cars tend to sit low in the ground, so it’s hard to get out. Unfortunately, they are also wide, so they are more difficult to park and have large wheels, making them less comfortable.
They often don’t have back seats, and those that do are often unusable for adults, and luggage space is minimal to nil.
But if you consider yourself older but fitter (oh, and have a big bank balance), you might want to consider a Jaguar F-Type.
While sports cars are generally not famous for memory foam suspension, the F-Type is undoubtedly one of the more comfortable performance cars. It also offers more thrills than just about any other vehicle we’ve mentioned.
Things to consider
This is just a small selection of the cars on offer. The best advice is to do as much research as you can, focusing on your priorities.
There is so much technology in cars these days. But if you consider yourself a technophobe, don’t be intimidated by the plethora of driver assistance and safety gadgets offered by new cars today. Most are designed to prevent accidents, so they’re there to help rather than get in the way. In addition, any good dealer should be able to give you a complete overview of what everything does.
Suppose you want to get rid of constantly changing gears. In that case, you’ll find that all plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars are automatics, so it’s worth considering. Honestly, owning and driving such a vehicle isn’t the scary rocket science technology fest you might think it is.
Regardless of what car you are looking for, make a shortlist and make sure to taste each car before committing to buy or lease anything.
One of the top priorities for older drivers is ride comfort. In general, sportier variants of most cars will have a firmer chassis. It is therefore best to avoid them if you want to minimize a bumpy ride. And it’s worth asking if there are optional extras, such as adaptive dampers or air suspension, that can improve driving comfort.
In addition, if you look at a new car on a manufacturer’s website, you will see that they come in different versions. These are usually referred to as ‘trims’ or ‘grades’. You often get bigger wheels the higher up the ladder you get, which can often be another comfort killer.
But that’s good news for comfort seekers, because it means sticking to entry-level cars often delivers the most engaging, comfortable driving experience – and that should save you a lot of money.
Just make sure that by choosing an entry-level model you are not selling yourself short when it comes to the car’s features.
Often the entry-level model will be there to suck people in at a lower price. But then you will notice that something important is missing, such as satellite navigation or an infotainment screen. So sometimes it pays to have the next trim level on some cars, and you may be able to downgrade the size of the wheels you get.
If that F-Type sounded tempting and you’re going 80 at 18 and still want crisp, sharp handling, big wheels and sportier features, then it’s more than likely the reverse of the above will suit you best.
And why not? Yes, it will probably be a lot more expensive – and no doubt there will be other compromises as well – but you really can’t appreciate being young at heart.